BlackBook Interview: Rebekka Johnson and Kimmy Gatewood Talk Comedic Sisterhood in ‘GLOW’
With the first two seasons of Netflix’s GLOW drawing rave reviews, there’s no reason to not have already binged every episode. Based on the ’80s wrestling show of the same name, the scripted series uniquely packs dramatic punches, as well as laughs.
At the heart of the show’s comedic appeal is the wrestling duo known as the Toxic Twins (formerly the Beatdown Biddies). Portrayed by real-life friends and comedy partners Rebekka Johnson and Kimmy Gatewood, they bring a particularly unapologetic yet refreshing brand of funny to the show. Under their firm grasp of a more innocent ’80s sense of humor is a modern outspoken pair that keeps the show upbeat, yet crudely hilarious.
We recently caught up with them to chat about season two. From returning to training to filming in the wake of the #MeToo movement, they had much to say about the unintentionally feminist series.
BlackBook: What’s it been like seeing the fans’ reactions to the first season?
Kimmy Gatewood: I mean, it changed our lives, and the fans have been totally amazing. We were so nervous about real wrestling fans.
Rebekka Johnson: Yea, we thought they were gonna be like, “These girls don’t know how to wrestle!” I don’t know, you’re just thinking, “Oh god, are they gonna like it?” But they really embraced it. And then people who weren’t fans of wrestling now have a greater respect for it just from watching GLOW. So, it kind of went both ways. But we love working on it so much, and it’s felt so awesome to be a part of it.
KG: Yea, and there’s great fan art. We just got some yesterday, drawings of the Beatdown Biddies. And I’m so touched by that. And people dressed like the GLOW girls for Halloween. What a dream. I think I’ve always wanted to do anything where someone would dress up like my character. So, it feels really awesome.
What was it like returning to set for season two and getting back into that kind of ‘80s mindset?
KG: First of all, we found out maybe two or three weeks before we went back into training that the show was picked up for a second season. So, we were all just like, “Yea, can’t wait to see you guys!” But we were also like, “Are we ever going to see you guys?”
RJ: Yea, and when the show got picked up, we were waiting to figure out if we’d still be on it. Like, we knew we’d be on it, but we were like, “What if we’re not? What if we’re not?” So, it was exciting. It felt really celebratory getting back in the ring, because we had to train again before we started shooting. It’s fun that we get to train before the season because we all get to be together. So, no matter what scenes are shot first, we’ve had that time of re-bonding, even though we never really stop hanging out with each other.
KG: Yea, first season we had four weeks of training as well. And we were scared and tentative doing forward rolls. When we came back in the second season, everybody had like a new lease on wrestling life. We’re doing three-quarter flips and back bumps and sunset flips, week one. The moves were so much more difficult this season, and it was pretty punishing at times.
Have you gotten the chance to meet some of the original GLOW ladies?
RJ: We met a few of them. We went to a WWE show, and they were also invited backstage. So, that was awesome. I got head-locked by Matilda the Hun, who’s got a lot of muscles. She’s definitely stronger than anyone on our show.
KG: She’s in a wheelchair, giving us a headlock. And I was like, “I cannot get out of this.” She’s a beast!
RJ: Yea, they’re great. They’re such inspirations, and I really hope this shines a light on them and that they continue to work or get more work because of it.
KG: You hear these stories but actually getting to meet them was a whole other thing. They were telling us that they really had no idea what they were doing. They were watching tapes and making up moves, trying to figure out how to wrestle. It feels like very kindred spirits.
And your characters were based on some of the actual GLOW wrestlers, right?
RJ: The New Jersey Housewives and Chainsaw and Spike. Yea, the same sisters did two different parts. And we get to really fulfill that destiny in season two, because our characters transform as well.
You two are friends in real life. When they were casting, were they looking for people who already knew each other and worked together?
KG: We’ve been friends and comedy partners for over 10 years now. When they were casting for the show, Jenn Euston knew us from a comedy group we had called the Apple Sisters, which is a trio with Sarah Lowe. And we still perform together. Sarah’s in Las Vegas, and we’re in LA. So, Jenn asked us to come in together. Originally, Dawn and Stacey were a standup comic duo. So, our audition was making a dating tape, and we sang “Jellicle Cats” in the middle of it.
RJ: Literally, the script was a page of dialogue, and then told us to make up whatever we want. So, we came up with several versions of Dawn and Stacey. We had a New York version. We had all different versions of them. Then when had a callback, they told us to come up with a tag team character inspired by what was on the show, no script at all. So, we came up with five, and we did a full show for them. We were like, “You can stop us after three. We have three to five characters for you.”
KG: They interviewed us for like 20 minutes, and we told them our life story. We’ve had many an adventure together, pre-kids, post-kids, in labor with kids. At the time in our careers, I was ready to fly to New York and take a full-time job, working for a podcast network. We were just kinda at this point in our careers where we were thinking we’d just go behind the camera. So, we really put it all out there in a way I don’t think we could have recreated if we want to.
Since season one aired, the #MeToo movement has really taken off. Would you say that kind of changed the atmosphere on set, especially since it’s mostly women?
RJ: It was awesome to be around so many supportive women as that was all coming out. But really, the #MeToo movement didn’t invent the problem, it just shined a light on it. So, with everything going on in the world, it was just cool to be around so many likeminded, supportive people and see women in positions of power. You feel safe. I think that was the most important thing for me.
KG: And we had an environment where you could share your story with other women. It’s good. We deal with it in season two as well, not even knowingly. It’s something our show deals with, women’s issues, which involves sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s strange that sexual harassment and even immigration, which is in season two, are these topics that we’re dealing with in 2018. And they were dealing with these in the ‘80s as well. It’s very interesting.
Season two of GLOW is now available on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.